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Isa (Jesus) in the Qur’an

"The Messiah who is Jesus, son of Mary, was only an apostle of God."

"They say, 'God has begotten a son.'
You have uttered a monstrous falsehood....
May they be damned by God."

"Whosoever associates an Equal with God
will have Paradise denied to him by God,
and his abode shall be Hell."


  Jesus is mentioned several times in the Qur'an, the scriptures of Islam. This article lists most of the occurrences. In Arabic his name is "Isa" or "Issa." In Hebrew his name is Yeshua.

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In some texts, Jesus is called "the son of Mary," and even "Messiah" or "Christ" (depending on the English translation). He is a "prophet," "messenger" or "apostle" of Allah (Arabic for God), who was sent to confirm the Torah of the Jews, to reveal the "Injeel" or Gospel to Israel, and to announce the coming of the final prophet, Muhammad. Jesus is one in the "chain of the prophets" (5:46).

The Qur'an rejects the idea that Jesus is the son of God, an idea it calls "a monstrous falsehood" (19:88). Of those who teach this idea it says: "May they be damned by God: How perverse are they!" (9:30).

Likewise, of those who teach the doctrine of the Trinity: "They are surely infidels who say: 'God is the Christ, son of Mary'" (5:72); "Disbelievers are they surely who say: 'God is the third of the trinity'" (5:73). Such will "suffer painful punishment" (5:73).

Though Islam is beyond the subject boundary of this website, it's worth noting what Muhammad taught about these things.

The Qur'an rejects the doctrine of the Trinity and the idea that Allah has a son. Paradoxically, it also says Allah is surrounded by a heavenly council, whom he includes in his "We" statements. Isa (Jesus) is not a divine member of the council, though he is honored in the Qur'an as a prophet of God, a messenger of the council. He is not Allah's son except in the sense of being a holy servant.

But Muhammad's anti-Christian ideas reflect encounters with non-Jewish, catholic forms of Christianity circa AD 600. It's evident he didn't know the New Testament firsthand and was aiming his condemnations at Catholic or Orthodox — not NT — theology.

We get a hint of this in Qur'an 5:116, where Muhammad seems to think the Christian "Trinity" consists God, Jesus, and Mary:

And when Allah will say: O Isa [Jesus] son of Marium [Mary]! Did you say to men, "Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah?" He [Jesus] will say: "Glory be to you, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to say."

In the early Catholic and Orthodox forms of Christianity, the adoration or worship of Mary as mediator could appear to outsiders as though she were part of the Godhead.

Contrary to official Islamic doctrine, the Qur'an contains allusions to the idea that Jesus had no earthly father but was born of God: 3:5919:20-2266:12.

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According to Islamic tradition the Qur'an dates to the mid-7th century AD. Muhammad, its author, was born in Mecca (Makkah), Arabia, around 570. According to tradition, he received his "call" to be a prophet beginning in 610, at age 40. He and his followers eventually migrated to the city of Medina (Madinah, Arabia), where they gained control and inaugurated the militant era of "Islam" ("submission to Allah").

Recent historical research and manuscript discoveries in Yemen now confront Muslim tradition that the Qur'an was given letter-perfect by God to Muhammad. These new-found texts show that the Qur'an evolved over a period of time in the hands of pious Muslim scholar-scribes.

[See K.E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manuscripts (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2011).]

These new insights challenge Muslim doctrines of the unchanged status of the Qur'an. They also shed light on the origins of Muhammad's beliefs. Some historians have suggested that his mother was a Nestorian Christian and that his uncle was an Ebionite priest or bishop. The Ebionites were a Jewish sect that believed Jesus was the messiah but not the son of God.

These and other Ebionite doctrines exactly parallel later Muslim views of Jesus and many Islamic practices.

On Islam and the Ebionites see: Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Jewish Christianity (Factional Disputes in the Early Church) (trans. D. Hare; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969), 130-40; A. F. J. Klijn and G. J. Reinink, Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects (Leiden, Holland: E. J. Brill, 1973).

In spite of the apparent evolved nature of current Qur'ans, for this article I will quote from official English editions and leave the question of authenticity and theological development for other historians to unravel.

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Quotations below come from the following editions of the Qur'an:

Ahmed Ali, Al-Qur'an: A Contemporary Translation (rev. ed.; Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993). At times, Ali seems to avoid giving the direct meaning of certain phrases and opts for politically-correct renderings, apparently to avoid offending Christians and Jews.

For comparison, alternate wordings from these versions are printed in brackets:

M. H. Shakir, The Qur'an (6th edition; Elmhurst, N.Y.: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc., 1990)

N. J. Dawood, The Koran (Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1956).

The following passages are quoted below: Qur'an 2:87; 2:136; 3:45-46; 3:54; 3:59; 4:156-58; 4:163; 4:171-72; 5:17; 5:46; 5:72-75; 5:110; 5:116; 9:30-31; 17:111; 19:20-22; 19:33-35; 19:88-92; 23:91; 43:59; 61:6; 61:14; 66:12.

Other texts that mention Jesus (Isa) not quoted here include: 2:253; 3:52; 3:84; 5:78; 23:50; 23:117; 33:7-8; 42:13; 43:57-64; 43:86; 57:27. Of related interest, Sura 19 is entitled "Mary" (Arabic, Marium) and concerns the mother of Jesus.

All passages are cited by their Qur'an chapter title, "sura," and sentence (not verse) number. In many texts the "We" refers to Allah and members of his heavenly council.

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Jesus in the Qur’an — Texts

The Cow [Al-Baqarah] 2:87
Remember We gave Moses the Book and sent after him many an apostle; and to Jesus, son of Mary, We gave clear evidence of the truth, reinforcing him with divine grace. Even so, when a messenger brought to you [people of Israel] what did not suit your mood you turned haughty, and called some imposters and some others you slew.

The Cow [Al-Baqarah] 2:136
[Abraham to his sons] Say: "We believe in God and what has been sent down to us, and what had been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their progeny, and that which was given to Moses and Christ [Messiah], and to all other prophets by the Lord. We make no distinction among them, and we submit to Him."

The Family of Imran [Al-‘Imran] 3:45-46
45 When the angels said: "O Mary, God gives you news of a thing from Him, for rejoicing, (news of one) whose name will be Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in this world and the next, and one among the honoured, 46 Who will speak to the people when in the cradle and when in the prime of life, and will be among the upright and doers of good."

The Family of Imran [Al-‘Imran] 3:54
God said: "O Jesus, I will take you to Myself and exalt you, and rid you of the infidels, and hold those who follow you above those who disbelieve till the Day of Resurrection. You have then to come back to Me when I will judge between you in what you were at variance."

The Family of Imran [Al-‘Imran] 3:59
For God the likeness of Jesus is as that of Adam whom He fashioned out of dust and said "Be" and he was.

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The Women [An-Nisa’] 4:156-58
156 And because they [the Jews] denied and spoke dreadful calumnies of Mary; 157 and for saying: "We killed the Christ [Messiah], Jesus, son of Mary, who was an apostle of God"; but they neither killed nor crucified him, though it so appeared to them. Those who disagree in the matter are only lost in doubt. They have no knowledge about it other than conjecture, for surely they did not kill him, 158 but God raised him up (in position)* [Shakir: took him up to himself; Dawood: lifted him up to His presence] and closer to Himself; and God is all-mighty and all-wise. [*Ali's footnote: "For similar meaning of rafa'a see 19:57, 40:15, 56:23, 94:4."]

The Women [An-Nisa’] 4:163
We have sent revelations to you as We sent revelations to Noah and the prophets (who came) after him; and We sent revelations to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob, and their offspring, and to Jesus and Job, and to Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and to David We gave the Book of Psalms.

The Women [An-Nisa’] 4:171-72
171 O people of the Book, do not be fanatical in your faith, and say nothing but the truth about God. The Messiah who is Jesus, son of Mary, was only an apostle of God, and a command of His which He sent to Mary, as a mercy from Him. So believe in God and His apostles, and do not call Him 'Trinity'. Abstain from this for your own good; for God is only one God, and far from His glory is it to beget a son. All that is in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him; and sufficient is God for all help. 172 The Christ will never disdain to be a votary of God, nor will the angels close to Him. And those who disdain to serve Him and are proud (should remember) that they will all go back to Him in the end.

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The Feast [Al-Ma’idah] 5:17
Verily they are unbelievers who say: "The Messiah, son of Mary, is God." You ask them: "Who could prevail against God if He had chosen to destroy the Messiah, son of Mary, and his mother, and the rest of mankind?" For God's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and whatsoever lies between them. He creates what He pleases, for God has the power over all things.

The Feast [Al-Ma’idah] 5:46
Later, in the train (of the prophets), We sent Jesus, son of Mary, confirming the Torah which had been (sent down) before him, and gave him the Gospel containing guidance and light, which corroborated the earlier Torah, a guidance and warning to those who preserve themselves from evil and follow the straight path.

The Feast [Al-Ma’idah] 5:72-75
72 They are surely infidels who say: "God is the Christ, son of Mary." But the Christ had only said: "O children of Israel, worship God who is my Lord and your Lord." Whosoever associates a compeer [peer, equal, associate; Shakir: others; Dawood: other gods] with God, will have Paradise denied to him by God, and his abode shall be Hell; and the sinners will have none to help them.
    73 Disbelievers are they surely who say: "God is the third of the trinity"; but there is no god other than God the one. And if they do not desist from saying what they say, then indeed those among them who persist in disbelief will suffer painful punishment.
    74 Why do they not turn to God and ask His forgiveness? God is forgiving and kind.
    75 The Christ [Shakir: Messiah; Dawood: Messiah], son of Mary, was but an apostle, and many apostles had (come and) gone before him; and his mother was a woman of truth. They both ate the (same) food (as men). [I.e, they were not divine persons.]

The Feast [Al-Ma’idah] 5:110
And when God will say: "O Jesus, son of Mary, remember the favours I bestowed on you and your mother, and reinforced you with divine grace that you spoke to men when in the cradle, and when in the prime of life; when I taught you the law and the judgement and the Torah and the Gospel; when you formed the state of your people's destiny out of mire and you breathed (a new spirit) into it, and they rose by My leave; when you healed the blind by My leave, and the leper; when you put life into the dead by My will; and when I held back the children of Israel from you when you brought to them My signs, and the disbelievers among them said: "Surely these are nothing but pure magic."

The Feast [Al-Ma’idah] 5:116
And when God will ask: "O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to mankind: 'Worship me and my mother as two deities apart from God?'" (Jesus) will answer: "Halleluja. Could I say what I knew I had no right (to say)? Had I said it You would surely have known, for You know what is in my heart thought I know not what You have. You alone know the secrets unknown."

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Repentance [At-Taubah] 9:30-31
30 The Jews say: "Ezra is the son of God"; the Christians say: "Christ is the son of God." That is what they say with their tongues following assertions made by unbelievers before them. May they be damned by God: How perverse are they! 31 They consider their rabbis and monks and the Christ, son of Mary, to be gods apart from God, even though they had been enjoined to worship only one God, for there is no god but He. Too holy is He for what they ascribe to Him!

The Children of Israel [Bani Isra’il] 17:111
And say: "All praise be to God who has neither begotten a son nor has a partner in His kingdom; nor has He need of any one to protect Him from ignominy. So extol Him by extolling His majesty."

Mary [Maryam, Marium] 19:20-22
20 She said: When shall I have a boy and no mortal has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste? 21 He said: Even so; your Lord says: It is easy to Me: and that We may make him a sign to men and a mercy from Us; and it is a matter which has been decreed. 22 So she conceived him; then withdrew herself with him to a remote place.

Mary [Maryam, Marium] 19:33-35
33 "There was peace on me the day I [Jesus] was born, and will be the day I die, and on the day I will be raised from the dead." 34 This was Jesus, son of Mary: a true account they contend about. 35 It does not behove God to have a son. Too immaculate is He! When He decrees a thing He has only to say: "Be", and it is. 36 (Jesus only said:) "Surely God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is the straight path."

Mary [Maryam, Marium] 19:88-92
88 They say: "God has begotten a son." 89 You have uttered a grievous thing [Shakir: an abominable assertion; Dawood: a monstrous falsehood] 90 which would cleave the skies asunder, rend the earth, and split the mountains, 91 for they have attributed a son to Ar-Rahman [the Merciful One, God], 92 when it does not behove the Merciful to have a son.

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The True Believers [Al-Mu’minun] 23:91
God has not begotten a son, nor is there any god besides Him. Had this been so, each god would have taken away what he had created with him, and some would have risen over the others. God is much too glorious for what they attribute (to Him)!

Ornaments of Gold [Az-Zukhruf] 43:59
(Jesus) was only a creature whom We favoured and made an example for the children of Israel.

Formations [As-Saff] 61:6
And when Jesus, son of Mary, said: "O children of Israel, I am sent to you by God to confirm the Torah (sent) before me, and to give you good tidings of an apostle who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad (the praised one, i.e., Muhammad)."

Formations [As-Saff] 61:14
O you who believe, be helpers of God, as Jesus, son of Mary, had said to the disciples: "Who will help me in the way of God?" and they had answered: "We are helpers of God." Then a section among the children of Israel believed, but a section among them did not. So We helped those who believed against their enemies, and they prevailed over them.

Prohibition [At-Tahrim] 66:12
And of Mary, daughter of Imran, who preserved her chastity, so that We breathed into her a new life from Us, and she believed the words of her Lord and His Books, and was among the obedient.

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